UPDATE FROM SUPERVISOR GEORGE GREEN AND NEW WINDSOR COUNCIL
THE FACTS ON NEW WINDSOR’S “EXIGENT” WATER SITUATION
By Edie Johnson
At a news conference on Friday April 3, New Windsor Supervisor, George Green had called together all of the area news media to “spread the correct information” and clarify” (sic) the town’s water situation. He refrained from calling it a crisis, since technically the water at the Butterhill Wells and Filtration Plant on Forge Hill Rd. adjacent to the Moodna Creek is drinkable, and the levels of various PFOS and PFOA in the water have been tested several times over the past few months with the results showing TRACE amounts only, that vary from 2 to 7.1 parts per TRILLION. The words “It is NOT ‘contaminated’ were emphasized several times, with assurance by the Orange County Department of Health that “This water is drinkable”
Nevertheless Green called the situation “An Extremely Exigent Circumstance”, meaning it demands immediate action, the reason being that the trace amounts (which were completely absent during construction and initial operation testing just one year ago) have increased (more than doubled) over the past 3 months. Still, the amounts pale when compared to Stewart’s latest spill just 3 weeks ago into the Silver Stream tributary (and others) which in places reached over 12,000 and 15,000 parts per trillion.
The #1 reason that urgency is demanded boils down to what to do for a sufficient alternate water source while they shut down the almost new $12 Million system and wait for approval, delivery, implementation and testing of a GAC (granulated carbon) addition to Butterhill. Granulated carbon filters are the tried method and reduce the trace measurements to NON-DETECTABLE. But this could take months, or a year or more. So, out of an ABUNDANCE of caution, the town is going to reactivate its Water Treatment Plant on Riley Road and water from the Kroll Well on Mt. Airy and Bethlehem, and seek to supplement with water from the Catskill Aqueduct since the supply from the Kroll will not be sufficient for all the residents that will need alternate water. The Kroll well can provide 1/2 Million gallons/day, but the town’s usage is about 2.7 Million gallons/day.
Bottom Line: Timing of setting up replacement water is what primarily brings urgency to the matter.
The town has not yet decided what to do about litigation regarding Stewart Airport’s Atlantic Aviation and the Department of Defense which most are convinced is the source. They will be attempting to determine whether the toxic chemical got to the Butterhill wells through surface or groundwater. After the April 13 spill Airport officials reported there were no contaminants in the spill, but later admitted (per city of Newburgh chemical testing) that there were, in fact, high amounts of the contaminants which are notoriously mobile and highly soluble (i.e. the PFO particles move very fast through water and do not break down over time). The disconnect apparently occurred because data sheets for firefighting foam products can be misleading, especially since at least some report their product also has “proprietary ingredients”. New foams are available that are PFO-free or nearly so, and many other firefighting sites have elaborate catch basins that could never result in a spill such as the one that occurred last month. Some cart all of what could be hazardous material offsite. Meanwhile Orange County residents are still waiting for airport and DOD officials to step up in a way they are assured of protecting them before the contaminants spread through even more of the county. Remaining concerns loom in terms of what exactly will be done to finally stop the contamination at the source, especially since the residual PFO’s do not degrade over long periods of time, and the contamination may keep building with continued firefighting training at Stewart. Use of the foam at the site of a fire is a far different issue than using it at the same place, over and over, across years, when unless immediately and securely collected in safe containers it will do what it does best, travel long distances quickly through either ground or surface water.
As for some skin conditions that have been reported by Butterhill area residents, the cause is still somewhat of a mystery, most thinking it is PFO-related, though an additive to keep hard minerals from collecting on pipes could be the culprit, or even the hard water that is known throughout the area where minerals, especially iron and manganese are very rich.
Timeline per John Egitto, the town’s Chief Water Operator as he stated on Friday is that trace levels were detected on September 27, and again on February 21. The town then received a letter on April 4th noting the continued uptick, which was however still below the new and stricter minimum standard of 10 parts per trillion.
Asked whether whole house carbon filters would be recommended for any residents who have remaining concerns, Councilman Anthony Regenbaum said that “IF used, residents should be sure they are NSF approved. Otherwise since some treatment systems use carbon filters only to remove contaminants like PFO’s, they do not always treat bacteria”.
And what about the Moodna Creek by the Butterhill wells and filtration plant? If it feeds the wells and is found to be part of the source of the new contaminants, the site is just 6 miles “as the water flows” from places around Washingtonville being considered for kayaking. Are the Washingtonville recreation spots along the Moodna still safe? Are there spots along the Moodna, Beaver Dam and other areas fed by Silver Stream being retested?
Supervisor Green added that throughout this, “The DEC has been extremely helpful and responsive, and we are grateful for their efforts.” Asked about the financial “hit” of the new costs after having just built a $12 M system, both Green and Regenbaum (who is the council’s water liaison) emphasized “This is NOT about the money at all. We have to do what is needed to restore the rights of our citizens to a safe water supply.”
Caption 1: The Butterhill Treatment Plant, one year old.
Caption 2: Riley Rd. Water Treatment Plant
Caption 3: Moodna Creek as it flows by the New Windsor Butterhill Wells and Treatment Plant, 6 miles from Washingtonville